Inside one Artist’s Mind

Warning!

This blog post may disturb you or in the very least make you question the author’s sanity.

 

On any given day there are a multitude of random thoughts and questions that pass through my mind. This is but a glimpse.

  • Is that a hawk or a vulture? Vulture.
  • I want one of those for the studio.
  • I NEED that for my studio.
  • What would people think if I started collecting roadkill?
  • Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
  • Ugh, this painting sucks.
  • I need to draw more skulls.
Not roadkill--found under my bushes.

Not roadkill–found under my bushes.

  • I should paint a skull.
  • I need to find more bones.
  • Will I ever find a shed antler?
  • Tea. Tea. Tea.
  • This painting isn’t looking so bad now.

Some of my collection

  • I really want to find a crow feather.
  • I love this painting. I bet everyone will hate it.
  • Should I cover my gray hair? Who cares!
  • Is this a coyote track?
  • I wish I could take this mini skeleton home with me.
Mini Skeleton

3 ft. Skeleton seen in my Rhuematologist’s Office

 

  • I should organize my _____ .
  • I love this paper. I need to buy it all.
  • I wish I could back this Kickstarter.
  • I wish I could attend _____ convention.
  • I should save this small scrap of paper. I might use it for something.
  • I should save ______, I might use it for something.

These aren’t the only things that cross my mind, but they are some of the most reoccurring thoughts I have. I have folders on my computer filled with photos of bones. Not long ago I was keeping some bones in my jewelry box. Okay. I’m going to go refill my coffee now.

www.amandamakepeace.com

In Another Life

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

Trust in your DreamsIn another life, I’d be…

A ceramicist.

A photographer.

A geologist.

A marine biologist.

An ecologist.

A wildlife activist.

An archaeologist.

A trail guide.

What would you be?

Star Wars : My Thoughts Before We Wake

featuring art by the late great Ralph McQuarrie

Star-Wars-Concept-Art-New-Hope3

I’m writing this from the past.

All the way back on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Because today, Friday, December 18, is a big day. For me. For a lot of us. I wanted to write this post ahead of time. Before today. Before it happens. Before we see it. Before the Awakening. Before the results of all this hype and hope and speculation and excitement are known. Will we be disappointed today? Will we be thrilled? Will our prayers be answered? I don’t know and for the purposes of this post, I don’t want to know.

So I’m writing this from the past. star_wars_r2d2_c-3po_ralph_mcquarrie_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-1054461

Last night (for me, here in the past), The Force Awakens had its premiere at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Which means that people have seen it. A large group of people, a lot of them famous, a lot of them on Twitter. And, while I trust that none of them are going to run and tweet “Oh my God! Han Solo is just Dexter Jettster wearing a Mission Impossible Mask!”, I have deleted Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media app off my phone; deleted the bookmarks in Google Chrome. From Monday until Saturday, I am in as much of a media blackout as is possible in this day and age.

Because I don’t want to know.

I’m not a spoiler-phobe. I actually find that trend more than a little annoying, as I wrote about a while ago HERE. Do I want to know the story? The surprises? The ending? Fuck no. But mostly, I don’t want to know what people think about the movie. I don’t want to read Kevin Smith tweeting “HOLY SHIT STAR WARS IS SO GOOD!” or Patton Oswalt saying “Bad news guys…”. I don’t want to know what the critics have to say. Not a single fucking one. Not because I don’t like critics, but because I have no interest in what other people think about the movie.

I only care about what I think about it.

Two reasons for this:

1. There are at most a dozen people in this world whose opinions on film I actually respect. Who I can talk movies with in a way that satisfies me. Whose praise or condemnation of a film can actually sway my desire to see it. Does this make me a snob? Fuck yes. I embrace being a snob. I don’t care what most people think because I think I know better. It’s an ugly truth about me but a truth all the same. I feel that way about all movies; with Star Wars I feel it tenfold.

2. Knowing the general consensus on a film’s quality undoubtedly taints your experience in watching it for the first time. If the praise is effusive, often times you are disappointed by what you see because it was merely “good”, not “amazing” as every keeps saying. For me, I call this the Something About Mary effect. Conversely, if the word on the film is bad, if people are ripping it, if the cursed Rotten Tomatoes (boy do I hate Rotten Tomatoes) rating is low, you go into it expecting bad and you look for the bad. All you can see is the bad. And you don’t want to feel like an idiot for liking something that everyone else hates. Or you can go the other way. You’ve heard the film is bad, you go see it, enjoy it, and think “That was much better than everyone is saying. I don’t get it.” That happened with me on The Dark Knight Rises. The word wasn’t great on it but when I saw it I enjoyed it. Looking back, I realize those low expectations inflated my opinion of the film. I bought it on blu-ray the day it came out and haven’t been able to watch it all the way through even once. I find it mediocre and disappointing.

star-wars-mcquarrie3I don’t want to walk into the theater today with that baggage.

I’m bringing in enough with me as it is.

Because, well…

I love Star Wars more than you.

Since I don’t know who you are, dear reader, it’s understandable if you find that statement laughable.

But I love Star Wars more than you because Star Wars is my thing.

And it has been since 1980.

When I was four years old, my parents let me stay up to watch the network television debut of Star Wars. It was hosted by Billy Dee Williams (which is how I know it was around 1980), from a badly mocked-up version of what I would later learn was the Mos Eisley cantina. (Did you know it was owned by a Wookiee named Chalmun? Of course you didn’t. No reason you should. But I do. Because Star Wars is my thing.)

Like so many people, the first time seeing George Lucas’s Star Wars changed my life. I was never the same after that. I had, at the age of four, fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love.

I obviously don’t remember every detail of that night, but I remember enough. I remember the opening shot of the Blockade Runner (the Tantive IV) and the Star Destroyer (the Devastator) coming over the top of the screen and thinking the child’s equivalent of “holy shit!”. Being terrified of Darth Vader. I remember the cantina, obviously. Ben cutting off Ponda Baba’s arm. Meeting Han Solo. Seeing the Falcon for the first time. I have very strong memories of the trash compactor and, after that, the image that probably stuck most in my mind: Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm in the Death Star. Of course, the getaway fight with the TIE Fighters was amazing (“Don’t get cocky!”).

But what left an indelible impression on me was the final assault on the Death Star, later known as the Battle of Yavin. It enraptured me in a way I had never experienced. Starting with the scene in the briefing room where they break down the plan (I have this thing. Don’t know what it is, but my favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indy uses the chalkboard to explain to the guys, one of them the actor that played Jek Porkins in A New Hope, how the Staff of Ra worked. Don’t know why that is.) and then of course the visuals, the action. It was so damn exciting and tense. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had seen very few movies, so it never occurred to me that of course the hero was going to save the day. I was four. I didn’t know that it was an automatic thing in movies like this. I was terrified for Luke every step of the way. He’s just a kid from a farm! This is so dangerous! How is he going to make it out alive?

mcquarrie-xwing-concept

Ships crash. People die. Darth Vader starts mowing down Y-Wings in his funky looking fighter (TIE Advanced x1). It was all too much.

Then Luke switched off his targeting computer.

I stopped breathing.

Then, it happened. The moment that brings me chills every time I think about it, let alone see it. Seriously. Right now, seeing it in my head, I’m getting that feeling.

Just when it looked like Vader was going to shoot Luke down. Just when the Rebellion was about to be blown to oblivion, a miracle happened.

“Yahoo!”

The Falcon came down out of the sun and saved the day.

yahoo

They came back! Han and Chewie came back! If you were an adult, you probably knew it would happen. Because that’s how movies work. The cynical loner always grows a heart and comes back to help. But as a child? I had no idea it was coming.

And when it did, I felt it for the first time.

The jolt. The shiver. The surge.

For all I knew, at that moment, 35 years ago, it was The Force Itself.

That feeling, you know? The potent injection of emotion that seems to shoot up your spine when you see, hear, read something that just hits you in a place you never knew you had. It’s the white soldiers cheering “give ‘em Hell!” to the 54th Massachusetts as they leave to die attacking Fort Wagner. It’s a brave vampire slayer leaping to her death to save both her sister and the world (“She saved the world. A lot.”). It’s the “Ode to Joy”, when that damn chorus comes in and the bliss crackles like electricity under your skin.

I was paralyzed with… I don’t know what that feeling is. It’s a cocktail of emotions, universally known but undefined. Just that… rush. That feeling.

It was the first time I had felt it.

It was riding my first roller coaster.

It was losing my virginity.

Drinking my first beer.

I have George Lucas to thank for that. And I thank him, as all fans should, for giving us this gift.

I also wanted more.

star_wars_movies_atat_ralph_mcquarrie_fan_art_1280x800_wallpaper_wallpaper_2560x1600_www-wallpaperswa-comThe first Star Wars trilogy was an enormous hit. Millions and millions of people are fans of the films. Made Lucas a brand of his own, the most successful independent filmmaker in history. The original trilogy is beloved the whole world over. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, nearly universally considered the best of the films.

But my love affair didn’t stop in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. I didn’t think “Well, that cool thing is over. On to the next thing.”

I was in love. I still wanted more.

And to get more, I had to dive deeper. And there wasn’t a whole lot there.

I’ve seen the two pretty-awful Ewoks TV movies more than a dozen times each. Why? Because they were Star Wars. Same with the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons. I read the seven available Star Wars spin-off novels, including the very enjoyable Han Solo and Lando Calrissian series. I read the lackluster Marvel comics.

But between 1983 and 1991, it was slim pickings for a kid who wanted more of his favorite thing.

But in ’91, a novel was published. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. It took place 5 years after Episode VI and heir-to-the-empire-coverstarred all of the original characters, and introduced a few new ones, including one of the great Star Wars villains (hell, characters) of all time. Soon after, in the world of comic books, Dark Horse got the Star Wars license and released “Dark Empire”, which took place a year after Heir to the Empire. It was a bleak story about Emperor Palpatine rising from the dead to take one last stab at conquering the galaxy.

With those two pieces of fiction, the entity that would eventually be called the Expanded Universe was born. It would live and grow for almost a quarter of a century.

And I experienced all of it. Every novel. Every comic book. Every video game. Every role-playing game. Every encyclopedia. Star Wars became much more than three movies for me.

Even through the Special Editions and the Prequels, the Expanded Universe thrived. The novels and comics kept coming. Some were great. Some sucked. Most were in the middle somewhere. But the Star Wars galaxy continued to grow outside of the movies. In the case of the prequels, it often times eclipsed it in terms of quality. When 2005 was over, and Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, Star Wars wasn’t over for me like it was for so many others. I hadn’t abandoned it because of the quality of the prequels. Because to me it was so much more than six films. The movies were the most important aspect, sure, but I enjoyed the prequel era. While Lucas’s movies were bad (at times horrible), with several great moments, they spawned so many interesting stories between the cracks. In comics. And fiction. And in the spectacular “Clone Wars” television show.

I can imagine losing faith in Star Wars if all you know is the films. I don’t begrudge anyone for being done with the franchise after the prequels. Nor do I blame people for hopping back on in hopes that The Force Awakens is awesome. Please, come back to Star Wars. But also understand that some of us never left. Not out of blind loyalty, but because we’re fans. Not fans of the Star Wars movies; fans of Star Wars as a whole, the entire multi-media giant it has grown into.

MCQ-dagobah

Now George Lucas is out. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams are in. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi.Everyone is excited to see what things are like, what’s happened, what’s going, three decades after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader. So am I. Except, I’ve already seen it. The novels hit “30 years later” a long time ago. In the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, a lot happened in those years. Weddings. Births. Deaths. New villains. New heroes. Wars. Adventures. Tragedies. Triumphs. A fully fleshed-out timeline that has been built upon that first wonderful Timothy Zahn novel.

None of this has any bearing on The Force Awakens. This is a new timeline. A new vision. One that only includes the films and animated TV shows as “canon”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine. It’s all make-believe bullshit anyway. But it will be impossible for me to not bring all that (fictional) history with me. That knowledge is in my DNA. It’s part of what makes me me.

J.J. Abrams is without a doubt a Star Wars fan. But, if I had to guess, not the same type of Star Wars fan as I am. He loves Star Wars and I think he is going to make a film that represents it well. Except, his Star Wars is not my Star Wars. My Star Wars galaxy is so much bigger than most people’s. The question is really going to be, for me, is “is what J.J. loves about Star Wars the same thing I love about Star Wars?”. Maybe, but maybe not.

RMQ-CarkoonSkiff

What do I want this new movie to be?

I want it to be a good story.

I want it to feel like Star Wars.

I want the Kurosawa screen wipes between scenes instead of dissolves and cuts.

I want Harrison, Mark, and Carrie to be Han, Luke, and Leia.

I want Rey and Finn and Poe to be great characters that I will enjoy watching carry on the saga.

I want it to feel old and new.

I want someone to say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I want John Williams to make me bawl like a baby.

I want it to pay homage to George but not be an homage to George. There’s a difference. Ask Bryan Singer.

I want Kylo Ren to be badass.

I want Captain Phasma to be badass-er.

I want it to be its own movie but also earn the title “Episode VII” and feel like part of the greater saga.

I want it to be good.

I want it to be great.

I want to love it.

ralph-mcquarrie-star-wars-original-artwork-concept-lucas-films-9

What do I not want?

I do not want Luke Skywalker to be evil.

That is the one thing that could turn me off of Star Wars for a very long time. Make me lose faith in the new regime. I think it would betray the original films, the films that everyone behind The Force Awakens say they are trying to do right by.

“Where’s Luke?” has been the refrain as the hero of episodes IV through VI has been absent from the poster, the trailers, the TV spots, and the toys. “Where is Luke?!?”

There could be many reasons why they haven’t shown Luke Skywalker in any of the promo material. Maybe he’s not in it that much. Maybe he’s only in scenes that are later in the film and they don’t want to spoil anything. Maybe his entrance into the movie is so motherfucking Orson-Welles-in-The-Third-Man-awesome that they want to hold onto it. Make us wait for it. Because when I see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, 32 years after he did it last, I’m going to cry. The quality of his reveal will determine whether I just get misty-eyed or curl up into a sobbing ball on the floor of the theater. I want his entrance to floor me. I want to feel like a kid again.

He could also be a bad guy. That would be a legitimate reason not to reveal him until we see the film, as some have speculated. I really hope that’s not true.

Because I don’t know what I’d do. They would have to do it REALLY well to keep me watching.

They could have Jar-Jar and Wickett talk about midichlorians for two hours and I’d still be there for Episode VIII. But making Luke the bad guy…?

Let’s hope not. MCQ-emperor

As this posts, 1:20 pm, EST, I am sitting down with my father and brother at the Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station theater in downtown Atlanta to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. The last time I saw a Star Wars film in the theater with these two people that I love: 1983. So that, in itself, will be special.

If you are reading this within two and a half hours of me posting it, I am currently sitting in a darkened theater with an appropriately StarWarsian mix of hope and fear. I don’t need this movie to be good. If it’s not, I’ll still be a Star Wars fan tomorrow. I’ll be sad Star Wars fan, sure, for a while, but I’m not walking away. When my baseball team has a bad game, a bad season, even a bad decade, I don’t stop wearing their caps. I don’t stop rooting for them, watching their games, going to see them when they come to town. And even if the last year was horrible, I still start the next season with hope that they’ll get it right this time.

I feel the same way about Star Wars. In all of pop culture, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart. That’s why I wanted to write this before seeing the film. To express my undying love. No matter what I am experiencing at this very moment, I will be a Star Wars fan tomorrow.

As for my opinions on The Force Awakens, I will express them. On Saturday I will be recording another episode of the NEEDLESS THINGS podcast where we will have a round table discussion about the film. The episode will be available online soon after the film comes out, if you really want to hear me talk about it. I’m sure I’ll have one or two or five hundred things to say.

I may even let the other panelists talk. If I’m feeling generous.

Thank you, George.

Good luck, J.J.

It’s time. You psyched? I’m psyched.

Let’s do it. Here we go.

Punch it, Chewie.

jump

May the Force Be with You,

Chad J. Shonk
December 15, 2015

Sleep, Perchance…

Alarm off. A slow glance at the clock. The time flickers a thought in my head.

That can’t be right. Close my eyes again as if the sheer act of doing so will change what they witnessed. A slow peek before I’m careening out of bed. A mad scramble of clothes and contacts and “did I shower last night?” and deodorant and shaving and finding a shirt and…

Dragon Clock

It’s already past the countdown clock moment. Now it becomes the beginnings of a true decision. Formulas scream through my brain.

How long is the trip?

When is it too late?

Damn… missed class again…

***

Many years ago Chad told me that he preferred nightmares to pleasant dreams. The very concept made little sense to me at the time.

“Why?”

“Because when I wake up from a “great” dream, I’m back in the real world where things are inevitably worse than the worlds I had just visited. But with a nightmare, I have absolute and utter relief, because my waking life is so much better then any nightmare.

“Suddenly I’m happy to be awake!”

***

I struggle to fall asleep. Not stay asleep… oh, no. That is well taken care of. I tend to stay up too late and want more than my allotted eight hours the next day.

***

Henry Rollins said that you either sleep or you don’t – but you can’t catch up.

***

I respectfully disagree with that sentiment.

***

Your body knows when enough is enough. When you’ve pushed yourself. When you have burned that candle down to nothing but a pool of wax and a long-forgotten wick.

That’s when you need to let yourself catch up.

candle-579580_1920

***

Tonight, I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay up, looking down the internet rabbit hole – wondering where it will take me. I wonder if ancient scholars had the same feeling reading the same obscure text.

Sadly I’m reading about football or baseball or something else not quite so grand.

My nightly ritual where I put it off as long as possible. One more minute. Five more. Let me just finish this article. Where is that link going to take me? What about this video on something from 1 year ago. Five years ago. 100 years ago.

Yeah, I could wait until the next day, but then the information couldn’t swim through my head waiting to greet me in my dreams.

I need to know RIGHT NOW!

***

Reality vs. Dreams? What is the difference really? What if the world ceased to exist when we closed our eyes? And then the very act of opening them created a whole new world?

city in the sky

***

In dreams we are the creator, not always in control, true, but building.

Yet, I have to wonder. Is that actually a truth or just something I believe without real proof?

If that was true, why would I set the clock to a point where I’m late for class? Why torture myself when it is nothing but mental 1s and 0s of my own personal Matrix? What good does it do my body to send that familiar rush of fear and anxiety through my body?

***

What if it were the opposite? What if we are only the creators when we are awake? What if when we shut our eyes that was the real world(s)? That’s why we don’t have control over it. That’s why we can’t get off the railroaded path provided to us.

As strange as that reality might be where physics no longer works the way you think it should. Where people you’ve not seen in years suddenly have different personalities than you are used to. Your wife recognizes you, but she’s different and the same and…

***

We have to follow Alice down that damn rabbit hole no matter what.

***

Another friend in high school once commented that he woke up early (most weekends) because he was afraid of missing something. Better to be awake for whatever exciting/important/whatever thing than to not be.

As if the world ceased to exist when we shut our eyes.

***

The world continues to exist when we shut our eyes.

***

Doesn’t it?

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Every Day is Exactly the Same

It has slowly but surely become Seattle South here in Atlanta over the last week or so. In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday that something from legend arose in the sky once again. People everywhere ran screaming from it, shielding their eyes and shedding layers at it attempted to cook them where they stood.

That beautiful sun, with us again.

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not (mostly). However, this continuous week of the same thing made me temporarily wonder if I’d stepped into Groundhog Day. Had the radio begun playing Sonny and Cher (in between my bashing of the snooze button), I might have never gotten out of bed. I would have been frozen in an odd sense of fear at repeating the same day over and over and an odd sense of fear at having the opportunity to repeat the same day over an over.

GroundhogDay3

Much like a play on the old What If games, how much of the way we live our lives would change if you could act any way you wanted to and no one would be the wiser when they woke up? The entire world having a weird amnesia about the events of the previous day.

That fight with your spouse – nope, never happened.

Showed up late to work again and got a talking to from the boss – no worries, they don’t remember.

Well, you know the plotline to the movie (whether you liked it or not).

But are we nice to people, do we follow the rules of polite (and sometimes not so polite society) because of believing it is the right thing to do? Or do we do it because we are afraid of the alternative?

Even worse, are we not doing the things we are supposed to do because we’re afraid of what the outcome will end up being? That freedom we might gain from not having the normal restraints on our actions… why are we letting that fear penetrate and control our decisions?

Dont-Waste-TIme2

There’s the very cliche’ saying of living each day as if it were your last, but I’ve never liked that particular saying. Typically the people quoting it don’t live on the same planet you and I live on. They don’t have to worry about bills or the day to day BS the rest of us put up with. Yet, there is something in there. A small kernel of information, a proposal of sorts that does ring true enough.

What are you waiting on?

We all lay in bed at night, just before we drift off into that sweet relief, and wonder about IT. Lament IT. That thing you’re working on (novel, boat, plans to take over the world)… what’s stopping you? Time? Energy? Life?

Don’t you think its time to put aside the excuses and just get it done? I know you’re tired. I know you’ve only got 15 minutes tonight. But now’s the time. We’re not going to get stuck reliving the same day over and over.

Oh, wait. Maybe we already are. So what are you going to do about it?

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Keeping things in Check

I’m one of those people that believes in Karma–cause and effect. I believe that our Dharma plays a huge role in how we confront life’s challenges. I also believe there is a balance to everything. The world around us is always attempting to balance itself, to keep things in check, and when we live as close to this balance as we can life is good to us. I’m using words associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, but I’m not affiliated with either. This is something I’ve believed and thought about for the last 20+ years. It’s my brand of common sense. Is my life always stress free, full of serenity and enlightenment? Ha! I wish.

But there are moments when I see the dominoes falling into place and I know why. My gut tells me this was meant to be.

Last week I received word that I did not pass the DragonCon Art Show Jury. Was I upset? Not at all. I know that may sound crazy, but I had been giving some thought to not applying this year. What????

I’d just finished a painting called Renascentia (Latin for Rebirth). This painting… THIS painting.

Renascentia by Amanda Makepeace

I began working on this painting in 2014. I sketched her out over the course of a week and then set her aside while I worked on a commission. Then the Christmas holiday season hit, my daughter was home from school, and not a whole lot got done. But even so, each time I returned to the first stages of the painting my heart would beat a little faster. It was clear not everyone was as thrilled by this work in progress as I was, but I couldn’t let her go. Before the painting was even finished I had decided she would be on the cover of my sketchbook, Daydreams and Wanderings.

Daydream and Wanderings Funded!

It was in the weeks just before JordanCon, when my Kickstarter funded, that I knew Renascentia was the start of something new in my creative path. She is the beginning. So when the call came from DragonCon, I was not crushed because I’d already begun thinking that I wanted to focus on painting this summer, to follow this new path and see where it takes me. If I’d passed the jury, preparing for the art show would have consumed everything. It’s a lot of work! Plus, I was already going to JordanCon; where I would have to chance to meet some artists I admire, sell some of my own art and make some new connections.

However, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tiny voice in the back of my head saying, “You suck. You got into DragonCon last year but not this year because you suck.” LOL

And then, Renascentia was awarded Judges’ Choice for JordanCon 2015.

I wrote a blog post on my website about my JordanCon experiences. If you want the full scoop, click through! But I will share the comment Todd Lockwood wrote in response to that post:

The pleasure was all mine, Amanda! I don’t often get the opportunity to influence the choice of “Best in Show” or “Judges’ Choice,” but when I do, it’s the one painting in the show that I most wish -I- might have painted. That was yours. It was unexpected and compelling. Most worthy.

Dominoes falling into place…

Southern Culture on the Skids

Or What it means to me to be from the South (specifically Georgia)

1 – It means being made fun of both far and wide.

How many times does a comedian or a late night talk show or radio DJ or whomever use “The South” as a punchline to some joke? When the stereotype of where you were born is almost never positive… it makes for an interesting experience.

2 – It means making fun of Yankees, no matter if they are from New York or the Midwest or just “north” of wherever we currently are standing.

Because of #1’s abuse, we have to try and poke fun back. It is a moral imperative.

3 – It means that so many times your sports teams end up underachieving. And it doesn’t matter if we are talking about the Braves or the Falcons or the Bulldogs or Yellow Jackets or Hawks or…

Yes, it is depressing to see those other teams win on our fields. Please stop bringing it up.

4 – It also means that no matter how many people show up for any given game (regardless of the sport) someone will make an issue of it by saying that we don’t support our teams.

Hey, stop trying to spend my money for me!

5 – It means that you definitely shouldn’t get into hockey, because they will just take your toys away from you and move them to somewhere in Canada (The North-North).

Atlanta is kinda like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football with this one.

6 – It means that winter is normally only bad for a couple of weeks… even if we do freak out at the first snowflake.

snow

Though I contend that we get ICE more than snow and show me anyone who can really drive on ICE.

7 – Though our Fall weather is the envy of everyone (or it should be) by not only ushering in football season, but just being the nicest days ever (seriously, ever).

Really, the weather is amazing from September to late November.

8 – It means that most of the people you end up meeting seem to be from somewhere else. Which is odd to me that since it stinks to be from the South that so many people would leave their homes and relocate here.

Could it be that it is secretly awesome here after all?

9 – It currently means that we might be the most prepared for the potential Zombie Apocalypse with the Walking Dead being filmed here.

Or at least we know what Atlanta will look like when it happens.

10 – It means that traffic will be awful (in Atlanta), but because people are from various other places originally, they will gripe all the more about it (we know, we know). And it really means scratching your head when New Yorkers tell you that you drive crazy (after you’ve ridden in a NYC taxi cab!).

atl-traffic

Seriously, just use your turn signal, and we’d all be so much better off (this is for everyone that loves to cut me off regardless of where you originally come from).

11 – It means that other people question why we don’t take the train more places without realizing that our subway only goes from north to south and east to west and doesn’t always have a stop at the place you actually want to go (Turner Field anyone?).

We just like our cars… a lot.

12 – It means having really good food… that will probably end up killing you (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, country-fried steak, biscuits, sweet tea).

 

southern-food-1

Excuse me while I go have a heart attack from this gravy.

13 – It means that we call it having a Coke no matter what you are actually drinking.

Not soda or pop, you whacky Northerners!

14 – Finally, it means trying to convince your wife, who’s lived here for all but 3 years of her life, that she is actually Southern at this point.

And failing… 🙂

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Truth about Introverts

Below is a blog post I wrote back in 2011 on a subject I am familiar with–the life of an introvert. Are you an introvert? What type? I’m a Social Introvert, meaning I need a lot of alone time, but I have no trouble interacting with groups of people. I thought my fellow introverts might find this enlightening!

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Idle Moment Sketch by Amanda Makepeace

Scrolling through my feed reader this morning I stumbled upon Theodora Goss’ post Introversion: Part 1; which is a response to Carl King’s post 10 Myths about Introverts. As an introvert, I thought I’d see how King’s response to these myths compares to my own experiences.

 

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

 

I can confirm King’s argument. No, I don’t talk a lot with just anyone. But if it happens to be a topic I’m passionate about I have been known to jump into a conversation whether I know people or not (this is how I met artist Charles Urbach and ended up in the Dragon Con Art Show last year). That said I’m always more comfortable with close friends and I can talk for hours and hours with them.

 

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

 

I use to be very shy as a child and young teen, but not so much anymore. Even so, as Myth 1 pointed out I’m not super chatty unless its warranted. I can definitely do without the pleasantries. If I’m in a group of people and not talking much, it’s because I don’t have anything to say, or I’m keeping my mouth shut for a good reason, or I’m more interested in observing everyone around me. Now you know.

 

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

 

I’ve never had any desire to fit in with the herd, but as a teenager I did feel extremely out-of-place, to point that I thought something was wrong with me. I learned later there was nothing wrong with me and since then I’ve been at one with my introverted self. I still have no desire to play the game, but I can pull it off in situations where its required.

 

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

 

I do value my very few close friends and I’ve always been the type to have just a small set of friends. Usually out of that small group I have someone who I am uber close with, someone that knows all my secrets, but I haven’t had a friend like that in years. Sounds kinda sad, doesn’t it? If I’m honest, I know it should seem sad, but I’m not really bothered by it.

 

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

 

I wouldn’t be able to survive if I didn’t have my down time, a.k.a. recharging time. The rest is spot on too. I like to go out, but on my own terms. For example, you won’t find me at a sports event but you might catch me at a book store, coffee shop, museum, etc. I go to ginormous SFF Conventions, strange buildings to be trapped in a room with a zombie, dinners with friends, and I have fun but I do feel drained afterwards. That’s just how I am.

 

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

 

True again. I am alone most of the time and I’m fine with that, in fact I’m content with that–most of the time. Whenever I start feeling antsy I know I need to meet up with a friend to talk for hours, catch a movie, etc. I have limits to how much time I can spend alone, just as I have limits to how much time I can spend with a group of people.

 

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

 

To quote Eddie Vedder: “I change, by not changing at all.” I like what I like. Sometimes that may make me stylish other times not. I don’t give it a lot of thought. I’d rather be painting.

 

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

 

Yes and I also happen to be one of those people that will laugh out loud about something I’m thinking, whether I’m alone or not. I easily become lost in thought. Sometimes it happens when I’m in the middle of a movie or reading a book. I can sit for hours just staring at the fields and birds, imagining a dragon coming over the hill.

 

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

 

True. But now you’re thinking, how does she handle Dragon Con? It’s a different type of crowd and I’m surrounded by people who love the same things I do. If you want to see me shut down, send me to a shopping mall for the entire day or a Walmart with those awful florescent lights–grocery stores for that matter too. I can handle those in small doses, not hours on end with loud people. Sometimes even an hour food shopping can put me in a foul mood.

 

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

 

Even if I could, would I want to “fix myself?” I don’t think there’s anything to fix. A world without Introverts…. No.

I’ve never sat down and talked about being an introvert with another introvert. I’d be curious to know how my responses compare. Any takers? Are you an introvert? What type?

Life, Art and One Lucky Winner

Giveaway Winner

This morning, before the sun touched the horizon, I was outside looking up at the stars. I’d forgotten how impressive the sky is when you get away from the city and Metro Atlanta. While I admired the beauty before me, a shooting star zipped across my line of sight and I felt like I was 10 years old again. I smiled up at the stars and made a wish. I needed that magic moment. It’s been one of those weeks. If I’m honest, September was one of those months.

I worked very hard all summer preparing for Dragon Con and my hard work paid off. I sold two paintings in my Gallery and more than half of my prints in the Print Shop. I hope I haven’t jinxed myself for next year! Once Dragon Con was over and I could stop pushing myself so hard the true weight of my exhaustion bore into my psyche. Then it was one thing after another. That’s life. Drusilla needed to be spayed. We had a birthday party for my mother, and then in the last days of September, Hunter became ill. He’s on the mend now, I think we are moving in the right direction, but after losing Shadow last year I was overwhelmed. So, it’s not been the best of weeks. You can always tell when I get overwhelmed by my level of social media activity–I begin to drop off the radar.

I’ve been working on a commission, but it’s difficult paint/create anything when I’m emotionally compromised. Some people can work through those times–not me. I think my muse goes into hiding. When that happens I have to coax her back out. One way of doing that is to turn my focus away from the project at hand and paint something else–something small, quick, and spontaneous.

Make a Wish by Amanda Makepeace

Make a Wish by Amanda Makepeace

Make a Wish, painted this morning in Photoshop, inspired by my shooting star, has done the trick. I’m feeling lighter and ready to move forward again.

I suppose I should share the winner of my art print giveaway, right?

Congratulations, Melinda Dalke!! I will be in touch this morning. Melinda is a fellow artist at EBSQ. Check out her Facebook Page: Laughing Paws Art Studio.

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

I touched on one thing a few of weeks ago that I wanted to explore a little bit. Basically the idea that out of bad things we should make the best of them.

When life gives you lemons, make lots of lemonade.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining.

silver

I wonder if it isn’t just crap we tell each other to ensure that we get out of bed in the morning.

4 years ago I got laid off from my day job as an engineer. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to take an unplanned vacation where you are stressed a whole lot of the time… let me tell you, it is not worth it. Basically you have this time where normally it would be great. Catch up on sleep, read a book, watch tv, and just veg out. I mean, you’ve been at it for how long now, you might deserve some free time again. But the underlying stress is awful. And at some point there are only so many hours in a day you can look for jobs.

But I digress. Out of that time I ended up writing the first draft of the book that would become The Dark That Follows. I had never written anything that long before. Prior to those moments the longest thing I had ever written was a movie script that was about 100 pages and around 48 pages of a comic mini series. Let me say that writing 200+ pages of a novel is an entirely different beast.

I definitely made some lemonade.

Here’s the question though… why? Why did I need that bad thing to happen before I made an opportunity out of it? Couldn’t I have done the same thing while I was employed (sure I could and have been ever since that point). Still that was the thing that gave me a kick in the pants I surely needed.

So why do we wait for these moments? Why should it take sometime bad to happen for us to reevaluate how our lives are progressing?

Top-Dog-The-Science-of-Winning-or-Losing

My favorites are the blessing in disguise. I’m more referring to the phrase itself, somewhat of a cliche nowadays, rather than the possible religious implications behind it. It might as well be a case where all we are doing is just trying to reassure someone that good times are coming. There is a commercial on tv in Georgia (perhaps other states who have the lottery are running something similar). The conceit of the game is that you win if you match all the numbers (like a normal lottery) OR if you match none of the numbers (so now they have us hoping for a negative return… just weird). And while I am amused at the commercials, it is such an alien thing to hope to not win… but not just don’t win, you need to LOSE completely.

I mean, what in the world are you supposed to be cheering for then? That’s like rooting for your team to tie or something. And while there are spots where that might be a good thing. It is completely alien to my own brain patterns. I (people) are programmed to Win.

So why is it that we must decide to find the silver lining only in the bad things? Can’t they just be bad things and then we move along? Do we need to find lessons in these moments of terrible? Would it be the worst thing in the world to just brush ourselves off and stop obsessing over whatever the bad thing was?

Just once I’d like to learn my lesson from something really good happening!

Of course, that is easier said than done. I think that it might be (must be?) that we all get caught up in our lives. Going to work, hanging out with friends, dealing with family… you know, Life stuff. But that becomes a daily thing. And then it becomes a weekly thing. And then summer is over and Christmas is here and we all stand around thinking “Wow, that year sure went by fast.”

The bad might just be a shock to the system that breaks us of that routine. Maybe we’ve drifted a bit from whatever path we’re supposed to be on and that’s the moment we can really do a bit of self-correcting?

Of course, unlike those people in the Lottery commercial, I’m not looking to have the bad thing happen. And I wish I could steel myself against it, but that never works. So all I can do is just take that extra moment when it happens and use it to the best of my ability. Not the best answer, but the only one I have.

Mostly I’m reminded of why there has to be bad things by two of the greatest philosophers of our time.

beavis550

Beavis: Hey Butthead, how come some stuff sucks, and some stuff is pretty cool?

Butthead: Because Beavis… if everything was cool… how would you know what sucked?

Exactly.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week three of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Books that Have Stayed with Me

For those of you who don’t know, I’m on Tumblr, and there’s an awful lot of tagging posts that pop up on my dashboard every day. When you tag someone, you’re asking and/or challenging them to most often share a list. Yesterday I was tagged to share ten books that have touched me in some way. I thought I’d share them here too. Some of these books made my cry, some terrified me, some enlightened me and some fed my soul. Several of these books I read a decade ago or more and I they still sit on my shelf. What ten books would be on your list?

Top 10 challenges of being an only child

I can’t recall the last time I answered to anyone.

I’m spoiled rotten in a sense, having obligations that are entirely under my control.

No sibling rivalry, no gift-giving nightmares, no Thanksgiving dinners. No blow-up family fights, no jealousy, no summers stocked with weddings and in-laws.

But long stretches of silence, sometimes deep and dark.

It’s true. All of it. Despite having four half-brothers and sisters, I’m essentially an only child. Strange, I know. I was raised completely separate from the rest of the crew, and thus enjoyed (and suffered) all the peculiarities of being number one all the time. My son is likely destined for the same fate, with all the good and the bad that being an only kid entails. It’s with this in mind I’ve decided to list the Top Ten Good and Bad Things about being numero uno.

And here we go…

1. Fewer people in your life –  I’ve heard friends talk about how they ‘couldn’t imagine life without my siblings,’ and yet I’ve eavesdropped as those same friends carved their brothers and sisters’ behavior to tatters. For my son, I wish he had a friend and confidant other than me and his cadre of Lego Stormtroopers, but I also love that he lives in relative peace, not having to endure the constant tug and pull of a little brother or sister. For me as an adult (sort of) it’s like being on an island. The beach, trees, and water are all mine, but no one else is here. I happen to love it, but perhaps that’s because I’ve never known any better.

2. Large amounts of time to contemplate – My favorite part about being an only is having the luxury of max me-time. Non-only friends have told me the exact opposite (that their favorite part is always having someone to talk to). Both arguments have merit. However, I tend to believe it’s easier to develop a creative passion when alone. An only has no choice in the matter. If he wants to play Hungry Hungry Hippos, he’d better invent his own competition. That’s all I’m sayin’.

3. Selfishness – See also narcissism. Booting one’s self from the center of the universe is no easy task. Learning humility and patience are challenges easier faced with siblings on hand. Need I say more?

4. Maximum one-on-one time with mom and dad – For the little ones, this a good thing. It’s a true luxury to be able to approach mom or dad for whatever you need, whenever you need it. Also, bonding opportunities (at a premium in households overrun with children) come hourly. It’s true that as an adult, I worry about all-my-eggs-in-one-basket syndrome, and if-he-turns-out-to-be-a-serial-killer-I-don’t-really-have-a-plan-B, but I wouldn’t trade my uninterrupted, five-hour long conversations with the G Man for the world.

 

Turkeys

Who’s really the kid here? Him? Me? Hell if I know…

 5. Holidays – While it’s true that I and some of my only-child friends share a snicker every time we hear about family gatherings gone awry, that’s hardly the whole story. In secret, while other huge families full of brothers, sisters, in-laws, and hordes of children are gathering for backyard-shaking parties, I’ll admit to sitting on the sidelines and being green with envy. ‘Looks pretty fun,’ I’ll tell myself. ‘Maybe I’ll sneak in and pretend to be someone’s cousin.

6. Empathy – From personal experience, this one is tough. Being an only child can boost creativity through the ceiling, but it can also result in ruthlessness. Growing up in a quiet household without any sense of other people’s feelings tends to leave one a little behind in the race. Kudos to you only-children who’ve managed to catch up. If you’ve got any pointers, I’m listening.

7. Sportsmanship – Until I developed a circle of friends in my teens, I had none of this. If I didn’t destroy my competition in every way possible, I went home hating the world. I see evidence of crappy sportsmanship in other only-children. I have to believe it’s due to never getting our asses kicked enough by older brothers or being humbled by having to play fair with younger sisters. Parents of only-children, beware. Teach them how to lose. It’s a key life skill.

Punchout

Your lunch money, or else!

8. A Shoulder to Cry on – Everyone needs this at some point in their lives. And if that person has a parent or spouse with whom to share sorrows, that’s great. But there’s nothing like a sibling (or so I’m told) for leaning on during tough times. They were there with you. They know what it was like.  Common experiences create common ground. My advice to other only’s; marry into a big family and be cool to your in-laws.

9. Vacations – Which is better: Riding alone with mom and dad or riding with someone to torment on the way to the beach? I don’t have the answer. I’m asking you. If anyone wants to experiment by riding with me in the backseat while Clearwater-bound, let’s do this.

10. All the Things I Haven’t Thought of – Here’s the thing; since I’ve never fought on a battlefield stuffed with siblings, sometimes I feel like there’s an entire world of experiences I’ve missed. Don’t get me wrong. I’d never trade being an only. It’s awesome. It’s epic. It’s do-whatever-I-feel-like-tastic. But still…I can’t help but be curious. As a side-note, and something I never noticed before today, every book and story I’ve written is populated almost exclusively with only’s. The heroes, the villains, the characters in the backdrop. Only’s, all of them save two. I guess that means I’m biased, eh? Maybe it’s time to step outside my comfort zone…

 

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path